MAY SAUGERS ON THE ILLINOIS RIVER   Leave a comment

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The 273 miles of the Illinois River divides into 5 pools as it meanders across the state.  The final one is the Alton Pool, just up river from St. Louis.

The Alton Pool extends from the tailwaters below La Grange Lock & Dam downstream some 82 miles to Grafton.

The bottom contains mud and sand with side channels forming islands.  Swift current below the La Grange dam holds concentrations of sauger and provides the best sauger fishing in the river.   The river is popular with recreational boaters and is a commercial barge waterway.  Probably the best time for anglers is during the week. There are also public areas open to bank fishing.

Fishing from a boat is the best choice.  Not all fish habitat is open to fishing.  Illinois law declares public only backwaters that have natural connections to the river and where the water rises and falls along with the river.  Dug out areas such as marinas and entrances to duck clubs are not natural connections.

The lower Illinois is historically one of the most productive Illinois waters.  However the aquatic habitat degradation caused by sediment in the backwater, erosion around islands, and the invasion of Asian Carp has hurt the native fishery.  Still there is excellent sport fishing in this pool.

Saugers stage in deeper water during the day.  They move to the shallows of the main channel border at night in search of forage.

Built to handle current, the body style of the sauger is lean and mean.  They range from fast current up near the dam downstream a mile or two.

Due to the nature of the river, anglers prefer heavier jigs and jigging spoons tipped with minnows.  Blade baits are preferred in vertical jigging the heavy current.  Baits with a lot of noise and color are best for sauger.  Baits with crazy colors, polka dots and pink as well as other bright colors are good.  Saugers appear to prefer bright colors.

Vertical jigging is a key choice for anglers.  Big one ounce baits and hair jigs work well.  In a heavy current a boat drifts fast.  Heavy baits aid in keeping the bait vertical while jigging.  It is important to fish vertically as the fish move up out of holes in the bottom to grab the bait and return to the bottom.

Hair jigs like those normally used for lake trout work well.  Large jig heads with long hair behind it and bright colors are good.  The Sauger is a visual feeding fish.  They really thump bait.  Occasionally sauger move onto flats where trolling crankbaits can work.  However generally trolling is not a productive technique for these fish.

Due to the fact that you are fishing fast moving water, safety is important.  Be sure you have all the safety equipment.  Do not skimp on it.  You never know when you are going to need it.

 

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